Describe the character of Mercutio and the impact that he has on the play, both in life and in death.

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brendawm eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Often considered a comic foil. (A foil is a character who by strong contract underscores or enhances the distinctive qualities of another character.) to his friend Romeo, Mercutio commands attention when he speaks, but comes across as likable during his witty and light-hearted banter with Romeo; however, there is another side to his character. Mercutio’s name is related to words such as mercurial, which means changeable, and mercury, a poisonous element; these words also represent another view of Mercutio’s personality: volatile and explosive.
When he is alive, he has a teasing quick wit and is swift to make bawdy, raucous and inappropriate comments, such as his teasing of Romeo to improve his mood when he is love struck by Rosaline and again in his conversation with the nurse who is looking for Romeo. It is his volatile nature, however, that proves to be deadly not only to himself but eventually to others in the fatal marketplace scene. In an instant he moves from joking with Benvolio to fatally quarreling. He finds himself so severely disappointed by what he views as Romeo’s cowardice in refusing to meet Tybalt’s challenge that he jumps in to meet it himself only to be mortally wounded when Tybalt takes unfair advantage of Romeo’s well-intentioned interference. On the verge of dying, Mercutio venomously wishes a plague on the houses of both the Montagues and the Capulets , revealing the extent of his bitterness through the repetition of this curse not once, but three

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gbeatty eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Mercutio is somewhat like his namesake, Mercury. He is mercurial, which is to say, he changes quickly, at least verbally, and he likes to spin ridiculous and extended stories. If he were more mean-spirited, you might think of him as liking to, um, "BS" people. Mostly, though, he likes to joke around.

When Romeo sighs over love, Mercutio tries to bring him down to earth. He also shifts the talk from lofty love to pretty earthy sex.

When he's alive, he is comic relief and Romeo's friend. In his death, he changes everything. Tybalt kills him, and Romeo kills Tybalt. This gets him exiled, and starts everything down the final road to ruin.

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user6963052 | Student

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dawnlovee0315 | Student

I have always seen Mercutio as a very unserious person. He was always joking around with crude humor. On the other hand, he had his serious moments also. I have also seen Mercutio as the type of person that starts fights. He is always causing trouble in Verona. Despite all of his unattractive traits, he has always been there for Romeo. After he was killed by Tybalt, Romeo killed Tybalt in revenge. Even though Tybalt was “family” now, Romeo still felt the need to protect Mercutio. This shows how much of an influence he had on both Tybalt and Romeo.

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jdellinger | Student

When he is alive, Mercutio acts as Romeo's foil ("a character who by strong contract underscores or enhances the distinctive qualities of another character.") He is the center of attention with his eloquent and dramatic speech and even becomes the center of attention when he accepts Tybalts challenge to a duel.

What is important to note is that when Mercution becomes fatally injured, he curses both the Montague's and the Capulets. "The extent of his feelings is revealed by the fact that this acrimonious denouncement is repeated three times by Mercutio: in III.i.91, 99-100, and 106." The fact that both Romeo and Juliet are both dead by the end of the play, can lead the reader to believe this curse came true.

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